To help make the pre-Christmas season of Advent a time of hope for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, a coalition of progressive Catholic organizations has organized a massive campaign of wearing rainbow ribbons to church as a way of showing solidarity and support for young people who may be the victims of bullying or may be contemplating suicide.
Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic groups that work for LGBT justice and equality in church and society, launched this campaign in response to the series of suicides this past fall which focused the national spotlight on the discrimination encountered by LGBT youth.
“Advent is the church’s season of hope, and we want LGBT youth across the nation to know that Catholics support them and want them to feel welcome in our parishes and communities,” said Nicole Sotelo of Call To Action, an Equally Blessed spokesperson. “Wearing the rainbow ribbon to Mass will also help to raise awareness of LGBT issues among other Catholics, too.”
The campaign, which was launched this month at Call To Action's conference, a national conference of progressive Catholics, is spreading rapidly across the nation and will likely include thousands of parishioners and hundreds of Catholic parishes.
“As a Catholic parent of a gay son, I see this campaign as a life-saver for many youth who have felt the pain and anguish of hatred and discrimination,” said Mary Ellen Lopata, a leader in Fortunate Families, an organization of Catholic parents of LGBT people, which is a member of Equally Blessed. “This action is a way that we can make the Christmas message of love and hope real.”
“Religious leaders and institutions have often been the perpetrators of anti-gay messages which have greatly damaged young people,” said Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, an Equally Blessed spokesperson. “This rainbow ribbon campaign illustrates that the people in the pews are ready to lead their churches in a direction that secures compassion, justice, and equality for LGBT people.”
A second part of the campaign includes a video message on YouTube from Deb Word, a Memphis parent who shelters LGBT youth abandoned by their families. Her message is an open letter to the U.S. bishops asking them to speak out about the issues of bullying and suicide. “I house discarded LGBT youth; 8 so far this year. I have bandaged a child who has been beaten. I have prayed over the nearly lifeless body of a child who attempted suicide. I house, feed, counsel and love these children. I speak at vigils, write letters to fundamentalists, and remind clergy not to tell these children that they are hell-bound because of their orientation. You might call me a gay activist. I am, and I would ask you to join me,” she states in the video. Word has sent her letter to nearly 200 Catholic bishops across the U.S.
The video can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWoHsYN-dKY.
Wearing the rainbow ribbon is the key action in the Advent Season of Hope campaign, but organizers are suggesting additional steps, as well. Among other ways Catholics can demonstrate support, say Equally Blessed members, are talking with Knights of Columbus members about their money being spent on anti-gay campaigns, making a donation to an LGBT rights organization in the name of a local bishop, and even pledging to have a conversation about LGBT justice issues with a family member, colleague, or public official.
“By taking these extra steps, we can build our communities into hope-filled places where there will never be another LGBT suicide,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, an Equally Blessed spokesperson. “That will be the greatest Christmas present we can offer.”
Equally Blessed is a coalition of faithful Catholics who support fully equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society. Equally Blessed includes four organizations that have spend a combined 112 years working on behalf of LGBT people and their families: Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Familiesand New Ways Ministry.